Why Public Relations Students Need to be More Ethical Than Ever


As public relations students, we need to constantly remind ourselves that the world of communications is more complex than ever before. We may have to go a step further in our ethical practices than our mentors did.  Though these precious people in our lives have done some amazing things, found success and made an impact on the industry, now is the time for us to figure out what our impact will be. One of our steps will have to be shifting our focus on ethics.

Here are three reasons why we must be well-polished when it comes to the PRSA Code of Ethics:

The practice of these ethics fuels relationships.

There are so many benefits to being an ethical practitioner. One is being able to form healthy and fruitful relationships. By staying true to our ethical standards of advocacy, honesty, expertise, independence, loyalty and fairness, you will brew a tremendous recipe for successful relationships. You constantly dispel the negative spin doctor connotation of our industry and provide an excellent business case for why we provide value to organizations.

We are the future of the profession.

In the coming years, we will be entering the workforce and making our way to the top of the communications pyramid. We are the future leaders in communications, and we owe it to our profession to carry the legacy forward. In our public relations classes, we learned the many phases of this business. Why not make our new shift toward authenticity? We should challenge one another to constantly drive authentic practices that will create relationships with our stakeholders based on facts that we have gathered from research.

We are more than just idea machines. We care about our perception.

The final reason we need to be more ethical than ever before is because we care about our consumers, our clients and profession. By constantly practicing ethical behavior, we are showing that we care enough as professionals to be accountable for what we do.  Accountability goes a long way in today’s society. Edelman’s trust barometer clearly illustrates the success an organization can have when trust is included in the mix. We have to be open to asking the tough questions on behalf of the publics we deliver our messages to.  Are we making the best decision? What will the public opinion be after making this decision? What is my target demographics’ opinion on this decision?  But let’s not stop by asking just the tough questions. We need to push ourselves to be able to think of what those tough answers might be and figure out how to deal with them.

As we transition to becoming the next leaders of the industry, we must uphold the continual development of our craft. The establishment of ethical practices has saved our validity as a profession, and we must see how these practices can continue to move us forward.

Why do you think public relations students need to practice ethics?


Eric Winkfield is serving as the 2014–2015 PRSSA vice president of advocacy. He is a senior studying public relations at Florida A & M University. You can connect with Eric on LinkedIn or follow him on Twitter.

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